Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight strikers Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw will clash TONIGHT (Sat., July 24, 2021) at UFC Vegas 32 inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sandhagen rose quickly to prominence at 135 pounds, which is rarely an easy task. The current champ, Aljamain Sterling, handed him a quick loss in June 2020, but since then, Sandhagen has re-asserted himself into the title picture with a pair of violent, highlight reel-worthy knockouts. Dillashaw, meanwhile, is on a quest for redemption. I don’t know that knocking off a current top contender quite excuses away a clear-cut performance enhancing drug (PED) failure, but if nothing else, it confirms that Dillashaw remains a title threat even after his 2.5-year sit on the bench.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each woman:
Key Wins: Frankie Edgar (UFC Vegas 18), Marlon Moraes (UFC Fight Island 5), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 241), John Lineker (UFC Fight Night 150), Yuri Alcantara (UFC Fight Night 135)
Key Losses: Aljamain Sterling (UFC 250), Jammal Emmers (LFA 5)
Keys to Victory: Sandhagen is the rare mix of high-volume kickboxing, quality accuracy and some real finishing ability. In addition, he’s proven himself a rather talented wrestler and scrambler against some high-level foes.
This is a match up of fighters with some real similarities in their striking styles. One difference that jumps off the page, however, is Sandhagen’s advantage in height and reach. Dillashaw may work well from the outside, but physical attributes certainly matter quite a bit at a high-level.
To make use of his range advantage, Sandhagen has to establish his jab early and begin feinting the strike often. The feints will be important, otherwise Dillashaw will definitely be looking to counter and time takedowns. If Sandhagen can keep him guessing, however, “Sandman” will be able to start building his combinations — that’s where he shines.
Another interesting unknown element to this match up is Dillashaw himself. Historically, Dillashaw thrived because of his conditioning, his ability to push an absurd pace even late into grueling contests. At 35 years of age and presumably with fewer illicit substances in his system, can he maintain that previous style?
Sandhagen should invest in the body work and really try to find out.
Key Wins: Cody Garbrandt (UFC 227, UFC 217), Renan Barao (UFC on FOX 16, UFC 173), Raphael Assuncao (UFC 200), John Lineker (UFC 207)
Key Losses: Henry Cejudo (UFC on ESPN+ 1), Dominick Cruz (UFC Fight Night 81), Raphael Assuncao (UFC Fight Night 29)
Keys to Victory: At his peak, Dillashaw was pretty incredible, another high-volume knockout threat with great technique from either stance. The two-time champion was also a serious wrestling threat, and he did a tremendous job of blending his takedowns and the threat of them into his offense.
Dillashaw’s ability to wrestle effectively may just be the make-or-break factor in this fight, as trying to strike with Sandhagen for 25 minutes seems like a nasty proposition. Dillashaw can dramatically sway the flow of the fight if he’s able to score a takedown ... provided he can actually do something with it.
The latter part of that statement is so important. If Sandhagen is sat down then scrambles back up immediately, he has no reason to fear the takedown or respect the feints. Alternatively, should Dillashaw manage to land some big elbows or at least control his opponent for a couple minutes (therefore stealing the round), his wrestling means something.
If he’s able to find early openings with his wrestling, Dillashaw has a much better shot at a successful return.
This might be a title eliminator.
It really depends on when Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling goes down. If that bout is able to materialize sooner than later, the timing works out. If not, the victor here is likely to face Rob Font next to more than secure a title shot. Of the two contenders, Sandhagen and his recent wins would be far more deserving, but then, Dillashaw is a former champion who technically never lost his belt.
Defeat carries different consequences for either athlete. In the case of Sandhagen, it ends his excellent new win streak, which definitely hurts his momentum. Still, at 29 years of age, Sandhagen could certainly rebuild. That may not be the case for Dillashaw, however, who desperately needs to return in a big way. If he gets sparked after so long on the sidelines, his past dominance will no longer hold much relevance.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 32 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET.
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At UFC Vegas 32, Cory Sandhagen and T.J. Dillashaw will duel in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?